Tapping into a world of development opportunities: current JPOs share their perspectives

Naomi Fukuda: from NGOs to UNDP

Naomi Fukuda had worked for a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the occupied Palestinian Territory before making a discovery that would alter her career path.

“I really felt that there should be different approaches at the grassroots level,” says Fukuda, a citizen of Japan. “Working with NGOs, I sometimes felt the difficulty of reaching the point of changing the system itself.”

Then she applied for a Junior Professional Officer (JPO) position with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Egypt. Now she is working on governance issues, including a programme to promote human rights education, which has offered her the chance to make the change she seeks.

An assignment as a JPO, or, alternatively, a Special Assistant to the Resident Coordinator (SARC), gives people the chance to make a contribution to international development. In addition, it provides young people with the opportunity to accelerate their professional learning, contribute their perspectives, and make an impact.

Geert Gompelman: Contributing his local knowledge

Geert Gompelman worked for French and Danish NGOs in various provinces of Afghanistan – experiences which put him in close contact with people on the ground.

Now a JPO in Kabul, Afghanistan, Gompelman works as Peace and Reintegration Analyst for UNDP. The work is more analytical, requiring him to monitor flows of aid money and ensure that resources are directed to the right places.

While he is one step removed from beneficiaries, he has made sure to insert his unique ‘local’ perspective.

“I know this country quite a bit after six years,” says Gompelman. “I am trying to bring my perspective into the strategy formulation process.”

Edin Elgsaether: Making an impact

Edin Elgsaether is a JPO in Myanmar who is responsible for UNDP’s parliamentary support programme. He helps design training courses for parliamentarians on how to better carry out their democratic duties, drawing on experiences from other countries that have gone through similar transitions.

“The one thing that is common across all these issues is the importance of building relationships with counterparts,” he says.  “We are not trying to do the work for them, but supporting the work they do and building their capacity.”

He feels that he has made an impact in a challenging environment by broadening people’s understanding of how to make laws.

“In the beginning, lawmakers didn’t take into consideration that the process is much more complex than simply parliament making a law,” he says. “It also includes consultations with other stakeholders, such as civil society members, to ensure that laws are representative and people-focused.”

Christina Hackmann: Taking advantage of the programme’s flexibility

Christina Hackmann started her JPO assignment in January 2012, working for the Human Development Report Office in New York.

She switched in her third year, moving to the Africa support team in UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR), where she is a focal point for the conflict prevention and recovery portfolio in several countries.

“I see myself working in a country office in the future,” says Hackmann, explaining why she made the switch. “I wanted to gain more programmatic work experience and do direct country support. I felt that such work would be exciting, and would prepare me very well for a job in a country office.”

Ernesto Calderon: Taking advantage of learning opportunities

Ernesto Calderon appreciates his JPO experience in part because of its learning opportunities. He has been able to take courses on management and negotiation from Harvard University, and on evaluation from Georgetown University.

“I have been trying to seize all opportunities to expand my skillset to other areas where I would like to go, and my office has been very supportive,” says Calderon. 

He believes he is now well positioned for the next step. “My JPO experience has been very good. Without it, I could not have dreamed of making it to where I am now.”